Exclusive Q&A with Dennis Hopeless
Fan-favorite writer, Dennis Hopeless talks to us about his books including Avengers: Arena, Cable & X-force, and X-men: Season One. Spoiler Warning: If you haven't read Avengers: Arena yet and would like not know anything about the plot or how some things turn out it would be best to skip the Avengers: Arena related questions.
Avengers: Arena has been one of Marvel’s more critically acclaimed titles in the last year. How does it feel to get that kind of reaction?
Dennis Hopeless: Acclaim always feels pretty great. But Avengers: Arena got so much more attention, good and bad, than I could have imagined, and I was thrown for a pretty solid loop. A lot of online controversy was stirred up from the initial announcement. Some fans didn’t like the idea of their favorite teen super hero characters pitted against one another in a death match. The tone of the book was so much darker than its predecessors and the stakes were so much higher, it freaked some fans out. I suppose I should have seen that coming, but I absolutely didn’t. So when the book came out and we started getting positive feedback from readers and critics it was a huge relief. Turns out I’m not the devil, come to grind your favorite characters into paste. One of my favorite things about Arena was hearing from fans whose minds we changed. They hated the premise of the book but our story hooked them and they came around. That’s a great thing to hear.
With several young heroes meeting their end in Avengers: Arena, did you expect that the fan response was going to be this strong when you were plotting who wouldn’t make it out of Murderworld?
DH: I was not at all prepared for the initial Internet response. In fact, I’m really glad we had the series fully plotted and several scripts written before our first issue shipped. That early wave of hate mail was enough to scare a guy off course. Fortunately we stuck to our plan and came out the other end with a lot more fans than detractors.
Avengers: Arena has reached its conclusion. Can you give some hints as to what happens to those characters that go on to star in the new series Avengers Undercover?
DH: Avengers Undercover follows most of the Arena survivors as they attempt (and fail) to rejoin their old lives. Murderworld changed them all in fairly profound ways and they don’t fit so well into the real world. They can’t relate to their friends and family or the adult super heroes who trained them. Struggling with PTSD and looking for any excuse to run away, they end up undercover in Baron Zemo’s Masters of Evil. If they can take down a powerful society of super villains, maybe they can show the world they’re still heroes and get back some of what they’ve lost. But what happens when they find out that these days they fit in a lot better with the villains?
What other Marvel heroes that you’ve yet to write would you like to tackle in the future?
DH: I haven’t written that many Marvel books but they’ve featured a lot of my favorite characters. Somehow I talked my way into scripting Elsa Bloodstone, Boom Boom, Jean Grey and multiple Runaways. Cyclops has been my favorite character since childhood and I’ve written him twice. Oddly enough, some of the most fun I’ve had at Marvel came writing heroes for whom I had no previous affinity. Forge, Dr. Nemesis and Domino were the highlights of my Cable and X-Force run and they were all recommended to me by the editor (Nick Lowe). So, yeah, I don’t know. As long as there’s a cool story there, I’ll write anybody.
How did you enjoy writing the X-Men: Season One original graphic novel compared to a monthly title?
DH: It honestly wasn’t that different. Because we decided to tell a story in and around the old Stan and Jack stories, it forced us to jump around a lot in time. We ended up with five interconnected episodes, each roughly the length of an issue. The challenge of X-Men: Season One was deciding where to insert our new scenes into the classic stories. I wanted to do an X-Men version of Friday Night Lights where the original fights were the football games and our relationship drama played out in the space between. Jamie and I had a blast with it. I’m really proud of the book.